You like to know what's going on, don't you? Then you'll want to check out this month's freebies, which keep you on top of things. We look at a tool for analyzing software license agreements, an add-on that improves the usefulness of Windows Task Manager, and a traffic monitor to help you get where you need to go. And did I mention that they're all free?
Get help with your required reading
No one enjoys reading software end user license agreements. It's as if the vendors count on boring you senseless before you get to the parts about allowing installation of third-party software and sacrificing your firstborn. A freebie called EULAlyzer can help by scanning EULAs and giving you a heads-up when it encounters suspicious phrases.
EULAlyzer's one-window interface includes a plus-sign icon. To scan a EULA text document, you open it in Microsoft's Notepad, then click and drag the plus sign over the text. If you can't open the EULA in Notepad -- for instance, if it's on a Web page -- you can copy it and paste it into EULAlyzer. Hit the Analyze button, and EULAlyzer quickly tells you what it thinks of the EULA. It assigns the agreement a risk rating and calls out "words of interest" (apparently it's not nice to call them "suspects") such as "third party" or "without notice." If you see creepy-looking phrases called out, you might want to rethink your decision to install the software.
Helpful as EULAlyzer is, you shouldn't rely on it to find every potential problem. (For instance, I'm pretty sure EULAlyzer isn't programmed to check for "firstborn.") You really do need to read EULAs all the way through before installing software. But EULAlyzer can save you time and trouble by flagging the most egregious problems for you.
Javacool Software offers EULAlyzer for free. If you'd like a process with less involvement on your part, check out the US$20 EULAlyzer Pro: It automatically detects and scans EULAs during installation of the software, so you don't have to bother to open them.
Demystify Windows Task Manager
Those running processes shown in Windows Task Manager have unidentifiable, sometimes unsettling, names. Is "DefWatch.exe" watching your data, or is it updating security software definitions? A free Task Manager plug-in called Process Library Quick Access InfoBar helps settle such questions -- and your nerves.
Process Library Quick Access InfoBar places an I-for-information icon next to processes listed in Windows Task Manager. When you click one of these icons, a ProcessLibrary.com page opens. If your PC's mystery process is described in one of ProcessLibrary.com's 9000+ process definitions, you get detailed information on the product behind the process: what it does, who makes it, and so forth. Better yet, the Process Library Quick Access InfoBar recommends a course of action, depending on what the file does.
Uniblue Systems, a data backup and recovery software company formerly known as LIUtilities, hosts ProcessLibrary.com and offers the Process Library Quick Access InfoBar free of charge.
Keep tabs on traffic
Despite its wonders, the Internet is no substitute for the real world -- and the real world is a big place. Before driving your vehicle onto local roads or highways, consider using the free TrafficGauge. If you live in one of the 13 major metropolitan areas covered, you could monitor traffic conditions from the comfort of your desk.
TrafficGauge shows a map of area roads with symbols denoting medium traffic, heavy traffic, and little Bermuda Triangles with no current data. You can zoom in on regions that concern you. TrafficGauge also lets you know if there's a major-league baseball, basketball, or football game on that day. If you really like being plugged in to traffic conditions, you can let the TrafficGauge screen saver run so you'll see the road status whenever you leave your PC quiet for a bit.
TrafficGauge is free. If you can't stand leaving your PC without it, check out TrafficGauge Mobile Traffic Map, an US$80 handheld device that receives data via proprietary FM data transmission. A subscription to the mobile service costs US$7 per month.
PC World Senior Associate Editor Andrew Brandt contributed to this story.